Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 04/13/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Fair warning, this contains spoilers for Muv-Luv Unlimited as this takes place immediately after, so keep that in mind.
February 23, 2004. That’s The Day – the day that Alternative V was put into action. A migrant fleet with roughly 100,000 of humanity’s most promising minds on board departs for Barnard’s Star, abandoning the Earth under the pressure of the relentless BETA onslaught. After the departure of the migrant fleet, dozens of G-bombs – bombs with still-not-understood gravity-distorting effects made from exotic G-elements brought to Earth by the BETA – are dropped on BETA hives all over Eurasia in one last-ditch effort to eradicate them from the face of the Earth. That was how the story of Muv-Luv Unlimited ended. This is the story of what followed.
The Day After is broken into four episodes – Episode 00, Episode 01, Episode 02, and Episode 03. Episode 00 serves as a sort of stand-alone introduction with Episodes 01-03 telling the actual main story. 00 opens to with a ship stranded in the shallows in what used to be the South Pacific somewhere between Australia and Hawaii – the USS John F. Kennedy, one of America’s nuclear-powered TSF carriers. The story opens as surface pilots with the United States Marine Corps fly across the salt deserts to set up relay points. The two pilots hope desperately to pick up a distress call on the radio once the relay is up and running. Fortune smiles on them; another US Marine surface pilot survived.
Earth is in shambles; the G-bombs were used as a last resort against the BETA, but no one knew the devastating effects it would have on the planet. Megatsunamis hundreds of meters tall crashed across Eurasia, moving entire oceans from one part of the surface to another. Tectonic plates lurched across the mantle. Most of the southern hemisphere has been transformed into salt deserts with the salt that once formed the seabed. All of Eurasia is now underwater merging the Atlantic and Pacific into one giant ocean. Parts of the atmosphere have been stripped away leaving whole patches of the surface devoid of air pressure or breathable oxygen. Electromagnetic storms make long-range communication impossible. Most citizens of the United States – once the nation safest from the BETA threat – are dead. Only four nations remain – the United States, Canada, France, and Japan. Japan and France, having lost their territory beneath the waves thanks to what has been dubbed the Great Ocean Collapse, exist as governments in exile harbored by the United States and Canada, respectively. If this was a victory against the BETA, it was history’s most pyrrhic victory.
So there’s your context. In a lot of ways, The Day After is legit more post-apocalyptic than Fallout. Radiation eventually dissipates. The effects of the G-bombs, though? That permanently deforms the planet. Oh, and insult to injury? There are still BETA on the planet. The hives may have been annihilated, but some of the crab bastards survived. Stranded and with no way to contact reinforcements in Hawaii, the crew of the JFK have to find a way to hold out against a renewed BETA threat. This is not the main story, though; instead, this is simply the prologue to another bloody chapter in human history.
Episode 01 starts the story in earnest capitalizing on the world-building foundation set by Episode 00. The main story follows Tatsunami Hibiki and Sendou Yuzuka, two surface pilots from the Imperial Japanese Mainland Defense Force and veterans of Japan’s expeditionary force to Europe. If you’re hoping to find out what became of Yokohama base after the events of Unlimited and reconnect with your favorite characters, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but 95% of the characters in The Day After are new. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as I really came to love these characters, but it’s very much a sequel to the world and not the characters per se. I won’t go into any more detail about the story of the world so as not to spoil anything (everything I’ve said thus far is pretty much what you’d find on a store page), but while it’s not nearly as “misery porn” as Alternative, it’s still very much Muv-Luv.
The game is a kinetic visual novel, so it’s a straight linear story with no choices or branching routes or endings. Some people would argue that this doesn’t constitute a game. I would argue that those people are communist sympathizers, and I’ll die on the “visuals novels are games” hill. Anyway, as a kinetic visual novel, it’s a very narrative-driven experience, and character development and interactions are the name of the game here. If you’re familiar with Muv-Luv, you know that ages does character development extremely well. If you’re not familiar with Muv-Luv, you probably wouldn’t play this anyway. One of the things that must be noted is that they finally used a different engine for it. The older Muv-Luv games used the notoriously finicky rUGP system (though, from what I’ve seen on Twitter and Reddit, the Steam releases are a bit more stable than the original Japanese PC releases), but this release uses a more modern engine. This gives it a bit more stability. It also had some way better-looking animations than Alternative, although I’m not sure if that’s from dumping rUGP or that they just put more work into the animations in general here.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am obsessed with Muv-Luv. It’s pretty much tied with Neptunia as my favorite series. With that said, I’m naturally a bit biased towards it. I will say, however, that I found this one a little less edge-of-your-seat engaging than Alternative. The tension just wasn’t as high. As a follow-up to Unlimited’s ending, though, it’s fantastic. I’d recommend this one to any fan of visual novels (although not until after playing Muv-Luv Extra and Muv-Luv Unlimited first), but it’s an absolute must-play for any fans of the Muv-Luv series. Remember, folks, this is the series that literally inspired Attack on Titan, so don’t sleep on it. 😉